I know at least some of you out there are reading my blog. In October I wrote “When Less Doesn’t Mean More” about how Dara Torres’ reported training regime didn’t jibe with any recognized training approach for sprinting; observing she was neither spending the hours in the pool typically associated with Olympian-level sprinters nor apparently relying on the innovative theories of Mike Bottom and his “Less is More” training style. Only three weeks later the New York Times came out with the story “Torres is Getting Older, But Swimming Faster”, which addressed almost every one of my questions. I’m sure it was just a coincidence and fortuitous timing on Torres’ part the article came out when it did.
While I’m firmly ensconced among those who believe Dara Torres is using some performance enhancing drug to achieve her spectacular results in the pool there remain many others, coming from the same population who buy lottery tickets and think Diebold voting machines produce reliable vote counts I’m sure, who believe without a failed test we necessarily must consider her ‘clean’. Despite the many instances of proven, long-time cheats who passed their drug tests for years this lack of definitive proof is admittedly a significant obstacle to overcome. One source for the circumstantial evidence I use to bolster my case is from comparing her recent performances to other recognizably more accomplished swimmers. So I’m always on the look out for details and facts about great swimmers both past and present to compare against Torres’ own career.
Yesterday I discovered a treasure trove of comparable facts in this month’s Outdoor Magazine. In his excellent article “The Big Chill” Christopher Solomon reveals several previously unknown facts about the incomparable Michael Phelps. All excellent fodder intended for later posts except for the one I’m going to discuss and compare to Torres here and now, which reveals he put on fourteen pounds (6⅓ kgs) of muscle in the three years prior to his phenomenal performance at last year’s World Championships in Melbourne. Now this isn’t a particularly noteworthy accomplishment for a twenty two year old male even if those pounds are being added to an already well developed Olympian frame. As one of Torres’ defenders stated in response to an observation I made about her muscle gains prior to the 2000 Sydney Games, “How often have I read this about a kid going to the NBA? Are they all taking steroids?” The answer is of course not. Young men engaged in strenuous activities or physical exercise can in most cases add the necessary sinew to handle pretty well anything. Yet it does take considerable effort and time to do so. Phelps' coach Bob Bowman had to institute a dry land program of one to two hours strength training three times a week on top of the 70,000 or so meters Phelps swims every week to give him his extra muscle. And he started the new regime right after the 2004 Athens Games when Michael was nineteen years old. Dara Torres, on the other hand, is noteworthy for taking only one year to add seventeen pounds of muscle as she prepared for her Sydney Olympics - and that was at the advanced age of 32. I think it needs to be noted she's a woman and not a man. After all she gave birth to her daughter only a little over a year and a half ago. I wonder how she managed it? The muscle gain I mean, not the child.
Now the ‘Torre-bles’ will invariably want to point out Dara’s muscle gain was then and this is now, and she’s currently racing ten pounds lighter than her Sydney Games days. Not a particularly convincing argument for me. Times change and as WADA identifies new ways of cheating and shuts some doors pharmacology continues to open new ones, always keeping a step or two ahead. Torres is certainly using something better and less detectable now than eight years ago because she’s swimming even faster at the age of forty. But perhaps Torres has some other explanation for her newfound speed and if so I’d be most interested in hearing it. Maybe past and present coaches Richard Quick and Michael Lohberg could even tape a couple of videos for Floswimming and share with everybody what they and Dara have learned about building power into her stroke over the past ten years. If not, and if she can’t arrange for the New York Times to get the details out, I suggest she use some other paper – Washington Post perhaps, or the Miami Herald, or even the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. I don’t really care. I’ll be watching all or them. Such is my fascination with Dara Torres.
Read my first article on Dara Torres (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)